March 5, 2010. The offseason was finally underway, and the New York Giants made quite the splash. They gave Antrel Rolle the largest contract a safety has ever gotten (at the time); a five-year, $37 million contract to join the Giants. It was a huge signing at the time, as Rolle had been a Pro Bowler the season prior and the Giants had a weak core of safeties, led by Kenny Phillips. Rolle was a huge addition.
He picked up in New York right where he left off in Arizona. He made the Pro Bowl in his first season as a Giant, recording 87 tackles and an interception, while starting all 16 games. He also was named to the all NFL second team.
The Giants missed the playoffs though, much to the ire of Rolle. He would play a fundamental role, both on and off the field, in the teams 2011 Super Bowl run.
His leadership ability both on and off the field was unmatchable. He was the heart and soul of the New York Giants, and the teams heartbeat.
He had a career high 96 tackles in 2011, and added another 24 in the playoffs. Without Rolle’s leadership, the Giants may not have even won that championship. After the Giants lost 23-10 to the Redskins and fell to 7-7, their season appeared lost. They were 1-5 in their last 6, and faltering. Rolle then gave a speech after that game, which Justin Tuck credits the late turnaround to.
“It definitely struck a chord in the locker room,” Tuck had to say
Rolle’s self proclaimed best memory as a Giant was the 2013 season though, not the Super Bowl run. While for many Giants fans that season brings back memories of disappointment, Rolle has quite a different view on it.
“We stood together, we came out losing six games straight, and we stood up and fought like never before. That was a true testament of brotherhood and a true testament of what it is to be a Giant, win lose or draw. We stood up, stood together, we took some heavy, heavy punches, but we stood up strong. Those guys were phenomenal in that locker room, from Eli all the way down, those guys are the real deal.”
Rolle was the glue that kept the team together during that season. While many teams would have thrown in the towel after the 0-6 start, Rolle wouldn’t take any of that. He motivated and pumped up his teammates, leading them to a four game win streak and a 7-3 finish, as they fought for the playoffs until the very end. Steve Weatherford gave a lot of credit to Rolle.
This was Rolle’s first season as a Giants captain, something he greatly appreciated. Rolle also led by example that season, leading safeties with 6 interceptions and making another Pro Bowl appearance. He received absolute praise from Giants legends such as Antonio Pierce, Carl Banks, Michael Strahan, and Jesse Amestead for his leadership that season.
Rolle went out with a less then spectacular season last year, arguably one of his worst, but his leadership was still uncanny.
His departure to the Chicago Bears on a three-year deal was to the dismay of many Giants past and present, just showing how much of a leader he truly was.
Rolle also led on the field. He started all 80 games the Giants played over the past five seasons, not missing a single one.
On his final interview on WFAN, Rolle said he cried the morning after signing with the Giants. He will forever miss the memories he had playing as a member of the Giants. He had more to say about that on his Instagram.
I just want to take this time to tell the organization., coaches, media department, cleaning staff, cafeteria staff, THE FANS,& more than ANYTHING MY TEAMMATES that I love u all dearly. This was the hardest decision that I ever had to make in my life. It's never easy when u have so many emotions involved and u have sooo much love for a place. NY is the only place that I call home away from home. You all have been so great to me and honestly I love you all to death for it. You all have me so many priceless memories that will never ever be forgotten. Once a Giant always a Giant and I sincerely believe in that. Moving on is a part of life and it's a part of business. I had to do what was best for my family and I. I want to make my son proud of his father and to continue to do that I had to go forward with my plan! NY is tattooed on my chest so just know I will be a Giant and a New Yorker forever. Love u all. See you on the other side. #WhereTrel@ #flipagram made with @flipagram
Rolle also said that he will “never be replaced” by the Giants, with his leadership on and off the field, his Pro Bowl caliber play, and his ironman mentality.
The more and more I think about that statement, the more and more I begin to think that it is true.